Christ’s Ambassadors

ambassadors-4-christ 2To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.

Sermon based on Matthew 10:34-42

Sometimes it is difficult to condense our thoughts or feelings into something that is short and succinct. For example could we imagine putting a lifetime of advice for a child into several short sentences? In a sense, this is exactly what Jesus was doing in our gospel lesson from Matthew. At first glance this particular passage from Matthew seems to include a variety of sayings from Jesus that together make little sense they seem to be all over the place. However if we view this passage more like those shorthanded instructions rather than a series of rambling statements we can see that the disciples were being provided instructions on how best to serve as Christ’s Ambassadors in the world. Through Jesus’ instructions the disciples learned about some expectations that God has of us along with some things they would encounter in their journey to be faithful followers.

First, on their faith journey they could expect and encounter opposition. We see that Jesus was giving instructions to the disciples to prepare them for the possible hostilities that they would encounter on their mission to proclaim the gospel. Speaking of hostility, there was once a government surveyor who brought his equipment to a farm, called on the farmer, and asked permission to go into one of the fields and take some readings. The farmer objected, fearing that the survey would ultimately result in some highway being built through his land. “I will not give you permission to go into my fields,” said the farmer. The surveyor produced an official government document that authorized him to do the survey. “I have the AUTHORITY,” he declared, “to enter any field in the entire country to take the necessary readings.” The farmer opened the gate, and allowed the surveyor to enter the field. The farmer then marched to the far end of the field, and opened another gate that allowed one of his bulls to charge forward into the field! Seeing the bull, the surveyor dropped his equipment and began to run for his life. He could hear the farmer triumphantly shouting after him, “Show him your papers! Show him your papers!” As this illustration shows us, there will be times when the bulls of this world charge after us! While Jesus declared that all authority had been given to Him, it’s important to note that he fully trusted his disciples with the authority to continue His ministry. We too have been given authority to proclaim the gospel in Christ’s name. Jesus prepared his disciples to be called names, ridiculed and perhaps even tortured. Jesus explained to his disciples that they could expect opposition from their enemies and even their own families.

The disciples learned that on their journey to proclaim the gospel they would expect to have to make and encounter difficult decisions. It has been said that when we are confronted by Christ, the basis issues of live are often challenged and at stake. Sometimes people shove God out of their lives because they have other gods, because God interferes with what they want. Some come to the point of believing that following the way of Christ is too demanding. For this reason, Jesus continued his directions by challenging the disciples in their allegiances. He shared that their allegiance to the gospel would likely put strains upon their relationships with others. Sometimes the expectations of our faith result in us struggling to live within two different worlds, the sacred and the secular. Following Christ is often the great divide between the Kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the world. Jesus offered his followers a warning concerning the cost of discipleship when he said the following:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. (Matthew 10:34-36)

Verse 34 is often seen as one of the most controversial verses in the Bible. As Jesus refers to the word sword in this passage we need to remember he is using the word as a metaphor. Jesus is not advocating violence in any way in this passage. Jesus never used military analogies in his teaching. This was a time when the teachings of Jesus were seen as a new interpretation of Jewish beliefs. Often a new believer was required to deny certain teachings of their tradition and faith in order to embrace the teachings of Jesus. Jesus wanted his followers to know that their new faith may not bring peace to a family, but may “split” it up, which is the function of a sword.

Finally, Jesus issued the ultimate challenge to those who would follow him. This was the expectation that we are called to pick up our individual crosses. Jesus implied that followers must be willing to give our lives in service for God’s kingdom. These words for the disciples are still relevant for disciples today. Jesus calls us to be more open in sharing with others what we value most in our lives. We are called to move beyond our fears and listen to our hearts. We are now into the heart of the baseball season. Many years ago the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in Montreal. They were the top two teams in their division so this series was very important in the standings. In the first game of the series the Expos were trailing 7-4. Their first two batters reached base. The manager sent a pinch hitter to the plate a rookie ballplayer named Curtis Pride. Pride had never gotten a hit in the major leagues. He took his warm up swings and walked to the plate and on the first pitch he swung and hit a double scoring two runners. The stadium of over 45,000 fans started screaming their approval. The Expos third base coach called time out and walked toward Pride and told him to take off his batting helmet. Pride initially thought something was wrong with his helmet but he realized what the coach was telling him instructing him to do. Pride tipped his cap to the appreciative fans. After the game, a reporter asked Pride if he could hear the cheering. He asked this question because Pride is deaf. Pride responded by tapping his heart saying, “I could hear it here.” As Pride heard the approval of the fans in his heart, sometimes we hear things strongly in our hearts. It is in our hearts that God wants us to know his approval of our faith and our devotion.

I conclude our message by sharing with you the remaining verses from the 10th chapter of Matthew in which Jesus summarizes God’s final expectations of us when Jesus said the following:

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. (Matthew 10:40-42)

Together let us continue to quench our thirst through the Living Water we have been given.  Let us strive to be Christ’s Ambassadors in the world around us.

The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.

July 30, 2017